Celebrating our freedom
Where do you come up with your ideas for a column? Even my spouse asks me that question. I smile and keep my own council since he is often the spark that leads to the ideas.
This week he is off the hook. It is the brouhaha that has arisen about football players, kneeling, the flag and the national anthem.
Let me assure you. I stand when it is appropriate to stand for the national anthem. I salute our flag. I fly the flag both at home and at camp. I am conscientious about maintaining flags in the manner that has been established as correct, see USFag.org.
I have to admit that I don’t stand when I am at home watching TV. I would not use the occasion of the display of the flag and the singing of the anthem as a source of protest. And getting down on one knee for any reason is impossible for me unless there are several strong people around to help me get up. But that is me.
I also know that the flag and the anthem are symbols for our democracy as defined by its Constitution. The flag and the anthem are not, in themselves, anything more than a piece of cloth and some words set to music…if I am correct, words written to an English drinking song. It is that which they represent that generates my admiration and respect. When I see that flag flying in a parade, I hold my hand over my heart and hope that no one sees the emotion in my eyes. I see the thousands who made it possible for me to live here and now in this democracy.
The flag and the anthem carry with them the lives lived and shed for the democracy, for the Constitution and all that the Constitution provides. When we defend our country, we are defending the rights that we have as written in the Constitution and lived by our populace through its history.
The Bill of Rights, if you remember, was not a part of the original Constitution. The specifics of their construction and inclusion into the document can be boiled down into this, Congress approved 10 as additions to the body of the Constitution, in large part to satisfy the fears of the Anti-Federalists who wanted more power for the states. It is in this Bill of Rights that we find most of the “rights” that we acknowledge: speech, petition, assembly, religion, etc. The rights are protections from limitations by the Federal government.
You know, this might be a good time to read over the Constitution. It’s not that long and it has real meaning in our lives.
The “right” in the news of late is freedom of speech. The first amendment states that the government cannot restrict this freedom. It doesn’t prevent a school, your parents or your employer from establishing rules that restrict your speech. Court decisions have established limits including obscenity, false advertising, child pornography, etc.
You, remember what you learned in school: You can’t yell fire in a crowded room when there is no fire. Freedom of speech is not a license to say what you please when you please and how you please because that right comes up against the rights of others with the same rights as yours.
Criticism of the government has, for the most part, been supported, allowed. Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative Supreme Court judges, emphasized that this type of criticism must be protected.
“ …. we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged ― and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government. That was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.” (Scalia CNN interview, 2012)
Without that freedom to critique we are in danger of becoming a third world dictatorship complete with velvet paintings of nude women on the walls. (Reference to a 1979 movie: The In-laws)
However those rights are judged, we have sent men and women into battle, to shed their blood for those rights. When we sent men onto the beaches of Normandy, through Anzio into Italy, mired down in the Ardennes, we were asking men and women to sacrifice for us to protect these rights from regimes that would limit or eliminate them. Their crosses line the hillsides of Europe and the United States. I remember visiting one of the World War II gravesites near Naples. It was overwhelming to see American white crosses and stars rolling up and over the Italian hills, each a soldier who gave “the last measure” for you and I to enjoy those rights. I was and am overcome with gratitude and pride.
When we exercise our rights, they are memorializing the sacrifice and valor of all of the men and women of the armed forces who accepted their nation’s call. Their living and dying have deep meaning for those who stand up or take a knee in respect for the rights of us all.
Let’s not confuse what is happening right now. A few young black men attempted to call attention to the deprivation of rights…namely the killing of young black men by specific law enforcement officers… with the bully pulpit available to them.
They were not casting aspersions on our democracy or the Constitution but rather celebrating the freedoms it provides. They were practicing a long held tradition of Americans knowing that they can call attention to the faults of government.
I fear that the these athletes’ protests have been spun into a scenario that makes their actions appear to be unpatriotic. They and their supporters say that kneeling is the acknowledgement that we have the right to criticize government. I fear those who misrepresent the motivation of these young men have crafted another way to disunite our country, to separate people of good will into camps, foment brother vs brother, create animosity …. To bring more chaos.
If my take on this is true, I ask why would anyone want to divide us? Why? Who benefits from creating animosity among our citizenry? Since the animosity is palpable and seems to grow each day on many issues, this question stands and its answer is even more important.
Who benefits? I do not and neither do you.
Let’s talk, not scream across a divide perpetrated by those who would destroy what those men and women died for.
Mar 18, 2018